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Undergraduate Research Program

2014-15 Levinson Scholars

Marrett, Karl

Karl Marrett
2014-15 Levinson Scholar

Levinson 10-year Quote 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krittika D'Silva - Bioengineering, Computer Engineering

DSilva, Krittika
Krittika is a senior at UW where she is pursuing a double degree in Computer Engineering and Bioengineering. Her current research is a collaborative project with both departments. Her work is focused on using technology as a tool in low-income regions to improve remote health monitoring and disease detection.

The motivation for the work is that diagnostic tests routinely administered in well-equipped clinical laboratories are often not appropriate for low-resource settings. However, paper-based diagnostic tests present an inexpensive and reliable diagnostic tool. Her research project consists of the development and analysis of an Android application that enables the diagnosis of paper-based tests on a mobile device. The software interprets test results using computer vision algorithms run on a mobile device and provides health workers with an objective and automated diagnosis at the point of care.

Last summer, Krittika worked as a research intern at Microsoft Research on a project similarly targeted at low-income regions. She designed and developed an Android application as part of a campaign to help end the Maoist conflict in India by giving a voice to tribal populations and facilitating communication with different agencies. The application is actively being used throughout the Chhattisgarh area in northern India.

In the future, Krittika hopes to pursue a PhD in Computer Science. Her interests lie at the intersection of Bioengineering and Computer Science where software is used as a tool to develop solutions in healthcare.

Mentors: Paul Yager, Bioengineering and Gaetano Borriello, Computer Science and Engineering

Project Title: Automated Analysis of Paper-Based Lateral Flow Tests on Mobile Devices

Abstract: Currently, disease detection in rural areas of developing countries is hampered by a lack of accurate, convenient and affordable diagnostic tests. The primary purpose of this research is to design and analyze software to diagnose immunoassay tests for MRSA, a bacterial infection prevalent throughout the world, on a mobile device. The tests would be paper-based and therefore cheap and appropriate for use in developing counties. Further, the software would be simple to use and intuitive and would not require a health worker to have prior training. An Android application will be developed that will allow the user to take a photo of an immunoassay test and will then interpret the test results using computer vision algorithms run on the mobile device. It will aim to provide a health worker with an objective, automated, and accurate diagnosis for MRSA at the point of care.

Ryan Groussman - Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

Groussman, Ryan
Biomolecular systems with global-scale impacts are Ryan’s primary area of interest. This passion drew him to the lab of Ginger Armbrust to study marine phytoplankton, the key drivers of many biogeochemical processes. Ryan aims to use molecular biology techniques in conjunction with in silico bioinformatic tools to look ‘under the hood’ at phytoplankton-driven processes. His first project at the Armbrust Lab, in the UW’s Center for Environmental Genomics, used comparative transcriptomics to investigate the evolutionary history and distribution of iron metabolism genes in marine diatoms. Currently, he’s embarking on an exciting new project to uncover the biochemical pathways involved in CO2-sensing and response in the model diatom, Thalassiosira pseudonana. Ryan is majoring in Molecular, Developmental and Cellular Biology with a minor in Oceanography. After graduating, he’s looking forward to continuing research while working toward a PhD in Biological Oceanography. Outside of academics, Ryan enjoys camping, bicycling and meditation.

Mentor: Virginia Armbrust, Oceanography

Project Title: Investigating Cyclic AMP as a Mediator of the CO2 Response in the Diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana

Abstract: Anthropogenic CO2 emissions since the Industrial Revolution have increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 400ppm, with an estimated increase to 800ppm by 2100. Approximately half of CO2 emissions are absorbed into the oceans, where 50 Pg C/year is taken up by marine phytoplankton. The most productive group of phytoplankton is the diatoms, which are estimated to account for 40% of marine primary production. The response of diatoms to increasing CO2 is a critical factor to consider in modeling biogeochemical changes in the ocean. Recent full transcriptome analysis of the model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana grown under elevated CO2 has identified several genes that are significantly correlated to extracellular CO2 concentrations, including a carbonic anhydrase gene, delta-CA3, thought to be important for concentrating carbon. Research on a distantly related diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, has suggested that CO2 sensing is moderated by the secondary messenger, cyclic AMP (cAMP), which regulates the expression of a carbonic anhydrase gene, ptCA1. We hypothesize that cAMP is also a key intermediate messenger in the regulation of CO2 -responsive genes in T. pseudonana, particularly delta-CA3. To test this, we will be implementing semi-continuous batch-cultures of T. pseudonana. Experimental treatments will be facilitated in a two-by-two matrix of two CO2 levels (400ppm and 800ppm) with and without treatment with 1.0 mM of 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (IBMX), which raises intracellular cAMP concentrations by inhibiting the phosphodiesterase that facilitates cAMP degradation. Differential transcription of CO2-correlated genes will be measured with qRT-PCR. We anticipate reduction of cAMP-regulated transcripts and increased intracellular cAMP under IBMX and elevated CO2 treatments. The results of this research will be important in clarifying the role of cAMP in CO2 -response in diatoms. The diatom response to increasing CO2 is a critical factor in considering the flux of CO2 in the ocean.

Gina Hansen - Bioengineering

Hansen, Gina
Gina’s research involvement began in high school, conducting research on crayfish sensory perception at the University of Maryland and at her high school in Virginia. Her desire to pursue research with more depth and impact on human health led her across the country to Seattle, where she is currently a junior in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington. In her first quarter at the university, she joined Dr. Daniel Ratner’s laboratory in the Department of Bioengineering, where she became involved in the development and demonstration of real-time, label-free silicon photonic biosensors for phenotypic characterization of blood. With the support of the Levinson Emerging Scholars Program, Gina is investigating the adaptation of this biosensing platform to blood antigen systems beyond ABO blood type. After completing her undergraduate studies, Gina plans to gain experience in the biotechnology industry prior to attending graduate school and hopes to ultimately work in the research and development of diagnostic methods. Gina is indebted to her mentors Dr. Daniel Ratner, Dr. James Kirk, and Pakapreud Khumwan for their continued guidance and encouragement. She would like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Arthur D. Levinson for their support in her research and professional endeavors.

Mentor: Daniel Ratner, Bioengineering

Project Title: Kell Phenotyping of Processed Red Blood Cells by Silicon Photonic Biosensors

Abstract: A global need has been identified for rapid and efficient methods of extended blood typing in transfusion medicine. Today, the ABO and Rh (+/-) blood group systems are the only antigens typed in routine clinical procedures; in multiply transfused patients, repeated mismatch of the 26 additional blood group systems poses a serious risk in immune sensitization. The tedium and cost of extended blood typing prohibit the widespread implementation of typing beyond ABO and Rh. The Kell antigen has been identified as the most clinically relevant protein blood group system which is not routinely identified in the United States. We propose the design, characterization, and demonstration of a silicon photonic microring resonator platform functionalized for direct Kell typing of processed red blood. This will be accomplished in three stages: (1) Modification of the silicon microring resonator chip with anti-K antibodies: Anti-K monoclonal antibodies will be covalently bound to the silicon microring resonator surface via a scheme using Solulink’s HyNic-4FB bioconjugation linkers. (2) Determination of Kell antigenicity of ghost red blood cells (RBCs): Active ABO antigen function on ghost RBCs has been demonstrated by our prior work on the ABO-functionalized silicon photonic platform, and structural similarity between the Kell and ABO antigens indicates that Kell bioactivity is likely also retained after the ghosting process. The Kell phenotype of unprocessed and ghost RBC samples will be confirmed via routine agglutination techniques for Kell RBC phenotyping. (3) Demonstration of Kell-specific biosensing on the complete platform: Ghost RBCs will be directed over the anti-K functionalized microring resonators; the silicon photonic platform allows real-time observation and quantification of binding activity as Kell-positive ghost RBCs are captured on the microring surface. Continued work in developing rapid techniques for identification of extended RBC phenotypes has potential to make clinical transfusion procedures markedly safer.

Jane Kwon - Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology

Kwon, Jane
Jane Kwon is a senior in the Department of Biochemistry. She joined Dr. Kaeberlein’s lab during her freshman year with an interest in aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Starting as a yeast dissector, she helped to collect and quantify Replicative Lifespan Data of S. cerevisae. She then shifted her focus onto the role of mitochondrial health in aging using small nematodes, C. elegans, as a model system. With a strong background in biochemistry and molecular biology techniques, Jane is interested in applying her scientific knowledge to clinical settings. She aspires to become a physician who can actively participate in the development of therapies and bridge the gap between the scientific community and patients through education. Outside of lab, Jane enjoys mentoring and teaching fellow undergraduate students with interests in science and medicine. Jane would like to thank her mentors, Dr. Kaeberlein and Chris Bennett for their support throughout her undergraduate career, as well as the Levinson Emerging Scholars Program for enabling her to continue her research project.

Mentor: Matt Kaeberlein, Pathology

Project Title: Investigating the Role of Mitochondrial Unfolded Response in Aging and Health

Abstract: Mitochondria, the energy producing organelles in eukaryotic cells, play a critical role in cell metabolism, and mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in a variety of diseases ranging from severe childhood disorders to age-associated neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. The goal of my research project is to define the mechanisms by which cells sense and respond to mitochondrial dysfunction in order to promote healthy aging, using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system. The mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt) is a mitochondrial stress signal that regulates the expression of several nuclear-encoded mitochondrial genes, including chaperones and other factors that assist in folding of misfolded or aggregated proteins in the mitochondria. While researches suggest a link between the UPRmt and aging, the role of the UPRmt signaling in health is yet to be characterized. In order to fully understand how mitochondrial stress and the UPRmt affect aging process of C. elegans, I am performing a genome-wide RNAi screen to identify genes that attenuate the induction of the UPRmt in response to mitochondrial stress. Once the components of the UPRmt signaling cascade are identified, I will determine the role of the UPRmt and mitochondrial protein homeostasis on longevity by measuring lifespan and health span, the amount of time in healthy and productive state. Understanding the genetics behind the UPRmt and protein homeostasis has enormous benefits to health, especially regarding mitochondrial and age-related diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

Will Lykins - Bioengineering: Nanoscience & Molecular Engineering

Lykins, William
Unbeknownst to him, Will Lykins has always been interested in engineering. He spent the majority of his childhood building Lego castles and Sand fortresses, although he didn’t connect that to engineering until later. Will also had an early passion for the preforming arts and music. In high school Will worked as a light designer for the school musicals. There he learned that small changes can have dramatic impacts on the larger product. Will, again unknowingly, became fascinated with molecular engineering; where changing the smallest atomic structure can revolutionize technology. Will has also fostered a lifelong interest in medicine. As a type one diabetic, Will has always had a finger on the pulse of medical innovation. Upon entering the University of Washington, Will discovered the department of Bioengineering and simultaneously discovered a way to unite all of his passions. Instead of building well-lit sand hospitals, Will now works in the Woodrow Laboratory, where he has the opportunity to use molecular engineering techniques to build new vaccines and treatments for HIV. In addition to research, Will spends a lot of his time in the classrooms of K-12 students, clarifying and expanding hands-on STEM education. After graduation, Will hopes to pursue a PhD in Bioengineering, to continue engineering revolutionary molecular medicines.

Mentor: Kim Woodrow, Bioengineering

Project Title: Cross-linked Lipid Particles for Delivery of Antiretroviral Combinations to Inhibit HIV Infection

Abstract: The global burden of HIV exceeds 30 million individuals, who are predominantly in low resource regions. While the treatment of HIV has been dramatically improved by the advent of combination antiretroviral therapies there is a clinical need for improved delivery systems that enable the realization of drug combinations with enhanced potency and lower toxicity that can also address the emergence of drug resistance. Delivery systems are needed to enable the combination of small molecule antiretroviral drugs (ARV), which span a wide range of physiochemical properties that precludes their easy co-delivery. Additionally, there are currently no available delivery systems for easy combination of ARV drugs and antiviral biologics such as proteins and nucleic acids. In this study, we investigate the use of cross linked lipid particles (CLPs) for the delivery of physico-chemically diverse small molecule antiretroviral drugs in combination with potent antiviral neutralizing proteins against HIV-1. We have demonstrated successful synthesis of the CLP platform via DLS analysis and cryo-transmission electron microscopy. Using the CLP platform, we have achieved loading of raltegravir, an integrase inhibitor (hydrophilic), and etravirine, a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (hydrophobic).We also demonstrate the surface conjugation of antiviral proteins such as cyanovirin-N and HIV-1 neutralizing antibodies. All CLPs show uniform size, significant small molecule drug loading, and efficient antiviral protein conjugation. The triple agent CLP shows minimum cytotoxicity and potent antiviral activity against HIV-1 BaL infection of TZM-bl cells in culture. We also demonstrate antiviral activity of the triple agent CLP against HIV-1 viral resistant isolates. Our results demonstrate the robustness of CLPs as a delivery platform for antiretroviral combinations, including small molecules and biologic therapeutics. We have demonstrated the activity and synergy of all individual components in the particle system. This platform could be leveraged as a treatment to eliminate viral reservoirs in vivo.

Karl Marrett - Neurobiology

Marrett, Karl
Karl Marrett is a junior majoring in Neurobiology with departmental honors and minoring in applied math. He is also a Mary Gates Leadership Scholar and a Mortar Board Alumni Scholar. He came from a research background in ecology and plant physiology, and worked in public and global health research at Battelle in Seattle. He is currently working with Professor Adrian KC Lee on designing a high bit-rate auditory P300-based brain computer interface (BCI) for both clinical and commercial applications. He worked on this project as part of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering summer exchange with the Brain Links Brain Tools Cluster in Freiburg Germany. In relation to this project, he attended the 6th International BCI Conference and has presented his work at the Computational Neuroscience Connection 2014. The Computational Neuroscience Training Program and involvement with the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering has motivated Karl to pursue research that brings together basic neuroscience research and engineering to spark applications in neurotechnology. He is interested in continuing his academic education in a graduate program where he can pursue these interests. Karl would like to thank his mentors Dr. Adrian KC Lee, Dr. Michael Tangermann, and Mark Wronkiewicz for their guidance on the project. He is also deeply grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Levinson for their support.

Mentor: Adrian KC Lee, Speech & Hearing Sciences

Project Title: Optimizing Performance in an Auditory P300-Speller

Abstract: In order to communicate, patients with total loss of muscle control can rely on brain computer interfaces (BCI) that utilize the P300 response and evoked related potentials of the brain recorded using electroencephalography. Typically, P300 spellers rely on selective visual attention to evoke characteristic electrophysiological responses to flashing letters on a computer screen. However, due to the auditory system’s acute ability to selectively attend an auditory stream in what is known as the “cocktail party effect,” new speller paradigms that aid listeners’ ability to selectively attend can potentially increase the maximum bitrate of communication for auditory-based spellers. This project is focused on advancing auditory BCIs and then evaluating new designs by measuring the cognitive load of users. The experiment tests the cognitive load of each condition via pupillometry (since changes in pupil dilation correlate to the cognitive load of a task) and a survey gauging the relative task load. By quantifying the cognitive load of different variations of the auditory task, this project offers future possibilities for auditory systems to help improve the ease of use and practicality for the community of individuals who rely on P300 speller systems as well as better evaluate other common BCI strategies.

Sean Murphy - Bioengineering, Economics

Murphy, Sean
Sean Murphy is a senior in the Departments of Bioengineering and Economics. Sean joined Professor Michael Laflamme’s lab in his freshman year and has worked under the supervision of Dr. Scott Lundy. The Laflamme lab investigates the use of stem cells for cardiac repair. He was drawn to cardiovascular regenerative medicine by the potential impact of new therapies. His first project focused on the quantification of Ribonucleotide Reductase (RR) in stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes overexpressing RR that were grafted into rat hearts. Sean’s current research examines the off target effects of rotigaptide on early stage stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. This research provides a critical step in translating rotigaptide research into clinical treatment. Over this past summer, Sean interned in the Chemistry Group at Seattle Genetics where he worked on evaluating anticancer antibody drug conjugates through enzyme activity and intracellular drug concentration. He plans to continue to pursue his passion for biomedical research by pursuing a PhD. Sean has participated in several outreach organizations and cofounded STEM Mentors. Outside of the lab, Sean works on a Bioengineers Without Borders project and plays on the UW men’s ultimate frisbee team.

Mentor: Michael Laflamme, Pathology

Project Title: Rotigaptide Modulation of Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocyte Maturation and Proliferation

Abstract: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and current treatments for heart failure are limited to slowing the disease progression or transplanting a donor heart. One potential approach to restore heart function is to transplant human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs). Anti-arrhythmic peptides such as rotigaptide are a promising strategy for electromechanical coupling as grafts can be functionally blocked from the host by uncoupled gap junctions. However, rotigaptide may also modulate other parameters such as graft cell viability and proliferation, so my research goal is to screen for such “off-target” effects through in vitro studies. We hypothesize that rotigaptide treatment will not affect proliferation or maturation of early stage hPSC-CMs. To test this hypothesis, immature hPSC-CMs will be treated with either rotigaptide or a scrambled control peptide. To compare proliferation in rotigaptide-treated versus controls, cultures will be pulsed with the thymidine analogue BrdU and detected by immunocytochemistry. Rotigaptide might cause deleterious effects by opening unjunctioned connexons that could lead to cell death through ATP loss or calcium overload. A live/dead assay has been shown to identify apoptotic cells to quantify cell viability and correlate this with connexin expression and phosphorylation status. This investigation will provide a basis for identifying modulation of parameters such as graft cell viability, maturation, and proliferation due to long term rotigaptide treatment.

Milan Vu - Biology (General)

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Milan Vu is currently a senior pursuing a degree in Biology. Having an interest in the sciences since high school, her curiosity about scientific research and desire to connect with her academic program at a deeper level led her to join the lab of Dr. Keiko Torii during her sophomore year. As a whole, the Torii lab studies the coordination and signaling processes controlling differentiation of plant epidermal stem cells into their mature state as stomata. Milan’s research focuses on a new direction in this area by using a reverse genetics approach to characterize unexplored genes that appear to be involved in stomatal development. Thanks to the support of the Levinson Emerging Scholars Program, Milan is excited to see her project through to completion and hopes to present her finalized data prior to graduation in the spring. Besides research, Milan also spends her time mentoring students with the UW Dream Project and aspires to combine her passions for service and science in her future career.

Mentor: Keiko Torii, Biology

Project Title: Exploring the Role of Receptor-Like Kinases in Plant Epidermal Development

Abstract: Stomata are pore-like structures on plant epidermis responsible for regulating gas exchange and respiration processes. The development of stomata is tightly controlled through various signaling pathways. Among the structures involved are receptor-like kinases (RLKs), proteins characterized by an extracellular domain, transmembrane region, and a cytoplasmic kinase domain. In Arabidopsis, receptor-like kinase genes account for nearly 2.5% of protein coding genes and are known to have broad roles in signaling and cell differentiation. However, few studies have identified specific biological functions of these many RLKs and their mechanisms of action. Previously, our group took advantage of genetic resources that specifically enrich stomatal precursor cell state and performed transcriptomic analysis (Pillitteri et al. 2011 Plant Cell). Based on the transcriptome data, we selected three RLKs, tentatively named MV1, MV2, and MV3, that are highly expressed in stomatal precursors. In order to explore their function we have generated transgenic plants expressing MV1, MV2 and MV3 under the control of their respective promoters carrying c-terminal yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) tags. Preliminary screening of the first-generation YFP transgenic lines has shown that all genes are expressed in the epidermis of young developing tissue, confirming their annotated expression patterns. Furthermore, MV1 is enriched in undifferentiated stem cell-like epidermal precursors whereas MV3 appears enriched in discrete locations in the membrane of stomatal precursor cells. In order to explore the function of these RLKs we are generating lines expressing kinase domain ATP-binding site mutants. We expect the mutations to interfere with signaling networks in which the kinases are involved and to incur a dominant negative mutation within each respective RLK, thereby providing a quantifiable phenotype for future measure.

Cindy Wei - Biochemistry

Wei, Cindy
Cindy Wei is a senior majoring in Biochemistry (BS) and minoring in Global Health with Departmental Honors in Biochemistry. Her interest in biochemistry stems from a high school science camp project in New Zealand, where she grew up. In her last three years studying abroad at UW as a biochemistry student, she was most captivated by the experimental details explained in classes and she wanted to apply techniques learned in a classroom to a cutting edge research topic. In her junior year she joined the Hoppins lab in the Department of Biochemistry, working on the molecular characterization of mitochondrial movement. Her current project focuses on the expression and purification of the proteins involved in microtubule directed mitochondrial transport: Trak1/2 and Miro1/2. Once these recombinant proteins have been obtained she will rebuild the transport machinery in vitro to investigate the function of each protein and their effects on each other in a simple system. Her undergraduate research experience has inspired her to continue to be involved in research and to go on to pursue a PhD after graduation in June 2015.

Mentor: Suzanne Hoppins, Biochemistry

Project Title: Molecular Characterization of Mitochondrial Movement

Abstract: Mitochondria are best known for their roles in cellular energy metabolism, but are also required for the synthesis of lipids, pyrimidines and iron sulfur clusters, and play a role in cell cycle progression and cell death. Given the plethora of essential cellular activities that require mitochondrial function, it is not surprising that defects in mitochondrial function are implicated in many different human diseases and disorders including neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, cancer and myopathies. Mitochondria are dynamic and the integrated activities of mitochondrial fusion, division and transport are regulated to adjust the shape of the organelle, which in turn affects mitochondrial functions. Mitochondria move along microtubule tracks in cells and, in addition to a role for movement in mitochondrial fusion and division, this activity is also essential for mitochondrial distribution in cells, which is particularly important in neurons where mitochondria must move from the cell body to the axon. Although proteins that participate in mitochondrial movement have been identified, relatively little is known about how they assemble into a complex and what regulates the activity of the complex. Exploring the biochemical properties of the mitochondrial transport complex will provide insight into the mechanism of mitochondrial movement and possible forms of regulation in cells. Our goal is to obtain recombinant purified mitochondrial transport proteins. We will start with fundamental biochemical characterization of their properties such as relative affinities and stoichiometry to determine how the complex assembles in cells. Ultimately, we would like to reconstitute movement so that we can also study the relative forces generated by these molecular machines and how that force is changed to gain insight into the regulation of mitochondrial movement. Understanding mitochondrial movement will give us a different perspective and insight into the molecular basis of many human diseases and disorders, especially those involving neuron defects.

Wenbi Wu - Biochemistry, Chemistry

Wu, Wenbi
Wenbi Wu is a senior in Biochemistry (BS), Chemistry (BS) and Mathematics (minor) with Departmental Honors in Chemistry and Biochemistry. Starting from her freshman year, Wenbi began doing research in the lab of Professor David Ginger. Her research area is in hybrid polymer/quantum dot solar cells, with a current research focus on morphology in hybrid polymer/quantum dot solar cells treated with different quantum dot surface ligands. In collaboration with the Moule group at UC Davis, she is trying to obtain detailed three-dimensional tomography images. The goal is to better understand and control morphology in these films to optimize the solar cell performance. Wenbi would like to thank her wonderful mentors Prof. Ginger and Adam Colbert. She would also like to thank the Levinson Scholarship for the support. As an undergraduate research leader, Wenbi is also very interested in engaging more students, especially international students, in undergraduate research.

Mentor: David Ginger, Chemistry

Project Title: Understanding Morphology in Hybrid Polymer/Quantum Dot Solar Cells Treated with Various Ligands

Abstract: Solar technology is a potential way to help meet the growing demand for clean, renewable energy. Hybrid composites of inorganic quantum dots, with organic semiconducting polymers offer a potential means of producing low-cost, solution-processable photovoltaics. The synthesis of quantum dots typically involves the use of large surfactant molecules to facilitate particle growth and solubility. These native ligands act as electrical insulators that impede charge transport in photovoltaic devices. Therefore, it is necessary to exchange these large ligands with small molecules to achieve efficient charge carrier photogeneration and transport. In this research, we will examine the role of morphology in bulk heterojunction blends of low band gap PbS quantum dots with the conjugated polymer poly((4,8-bis(octyloxy)benzo(1,2-b:4,5-b’)dithiophene-2,6-diyl)(2-((dodecyloxy)carbonyl)thieno(3,4-b)thiophenediyl)) (PTB1) treated with different ligands including halide ions and organic crosslinkers. We predict that these linkers will alter both the electronic properties of the polymer/quantum dot interface, as well as the 3D connectivity (or morphology) of the polymer/quantum dot blend film. By using photoinduced absorption and transient photovoltage techniques, we will study long-lived charge generation and recombination kinetics of our devices with different ligand treatments. My preliminary data indicates that the ligand treatments exhibiting higher device performance correlate to longer carrier recombination lifetimes. So far, however, understanding of morphology has been a critical missing variable in these devices. By synthesizing PbS quantum dots and preparing blends with different ligand treatments for characterization using high angle annular dark field electron tomography (HAADF-ET) in collaboration with the Moule group at UC Davis, we will try to obtain detailed three-dimensional tomography images. This project will give us a better understanding and control of morphology in these films which can be used to optimize the performance of hybrid quantum dot/polymer photovoltaics.